Have you ever smashed your thumb or shut one of your fingers in the car door? Besides verbally expressing your frustration, what is one of the first things that you instinctively did? I’m going to guess that you shook your hand about or grabbed it as to put pressure on it. This is called the Pain Gate Theory. This theory works on the basis of using non-painful input to alter the sensation of pain, either through movement or other input (pressure). The same theory applies to minor burns, or “walking it off.”
Imagine if you will, just two receptors for the sake of simplicity. Those two receptors are pain receptors and movement receptors. Anatomically, they reside very close to one another on the same tract within the nervous system. They are responsible for communicating messages to and from the central nervous system to the periphery in regards to their respective descriptions, pain and movement. Activating one can inhibit the other, but it is often multifactorial (i.e., mechanism of injury, severity of injury, duration of injury, chemical input, and visceral input).
Now think about the mechanism of the chiropractic adjustment. The primary purpose is to induce, restore, and maintain movement in areas or joints that are restricted in motion mechanically. The results are also multifactorial, and often, patient by patient, dependent on the aforementioned reasons. So if you’ve ever wondered if we just “pop and pray” that pain will go away, rest assured that there is indeed a method to the madness.
This leads me to a popular misconception associated with back pain. Patients in my office tell me that rest helps them to a certain degree, but they can’t figure out why the pain remains. Additionally, an overwhelming majority of patients note that regarding their low back pain, walking often results in mild pain relief.
Health reports on morning and evening news stations recently shed light on this misconception as well. It’s actually better to continue moving rather than be at rest. Although you should most definitely err on the side of caution while doing so – and assume that the motion or mechanism that resulted in a particular injury should no longer be performed. Rather, you should perform continuous gentle movements, with appropriate intervals of rest, that are spine sparing and gentle on surrounding joints. This will keep pain signals at a minimum, while movement receptors continue to be properly activated.
Michael “Dr. Mike” Roney, D.C., is a musculoskeletal specialist who recently joined Pawling Family Chiropractic, located in the Atrium on Route 22. He can be reached at (845) 855-1475 or at FellaWellness.com online.